Carbon offsetting as a driver for growth – the story of Max Hamburger

“The fast food industry is a part of the problem. So we’d like to be part of the solution and challenge the industry in acting.”

Richard Bergfors, CEO Max Hamburger Restaurants

Max Hamburgers is a family-owned Swedish company with more than 100 restaurants in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Established by Curt Bergfors in 1968, Max Hamburgers is Sweden’s oldest burger restaurant chain, competing with its rivals from the US on quality, environmental concern and Corporate Social Responsibility.

The leadership of Max Hamburgers was recognized some years ago when started a program to reduce the company’s environmental impact and they began working to be part of the solution, rather than the problem.

klimatkomp-logo-pic The first step was a detailed analysis of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions, from the farm to the restaurant. The analysis showed that the biggest climate impact by far was from the beef, which alone constitutes about 80% of Max ‘s total emissions. Based on the results, Max began labeling their entire menu with carbon footprints for each item. This makes customers aware of the differences between items and allows them to choose products with lower environmental impact.

As the next logical step Max began taking responsibility for all the emissions associated with the company’s activities, from the farmers planting seeds to the guests eating burgers. As well as energy-efficiency measures and switching to renewable, the company began offsetting emissions by investing in Plan Vivo tree-planting projects in Africa. In essence Max has taken on a voluntary carbon tax, in the form of 100% offsetting, which acts as a catalyst for reducing their footprint.

The collaboration between Max and the Plan Vivo project Trees for Global Benefit has been extremely successful, bringing significant benefits both to Max Hamburgers in Sweden and to small-scale farmers in Uganda. To date Max has offset 307,518 tonnes of CO2e, through the planting of over half a million trees on approximately 1,500 acres. More than 900 households are now benefitting from Max’s carbon offsetting, which means that over 5,000 people are being helped to rise out of poverty and to be resilient to ongoing climate change. Also thanks to Max, Ecotrust has been able to expand into new areas such as the dramatic Rwenzori Mountains in western Uganda.

In the Nordic countries Max has emerged as one of the most sustainable brands, rising in the Sustainable Brand index and in the awareness of the general public. Through clear and attractive communication at the restaurants, TV advertising and winning awards in Sweden and the UK for its environmental engagement, Max has been able to capitalize on its investment in climate-related activities. The investment that Max Hamburgers has made in measuring and offsetting the company’s carbon footprint has been one of the most important investments in the company’s history.

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